WTGW 12/21/16: Burgers 2 Beer, Solon

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Holy crap, this place is packed on Wednesdays. Presumably because they have trivia, a phenomenon we had yet to run into on a Wednesday night adventure. And one I can’t quite say I fully understand the popularity of, but whatever.

Although the itty-bitty parking lot does make Burgers 2 Beer look a tad bit busier than what they actually are. They share the lot with Penn Station – the fast food sub place – so of course we joked when we were walking in that everyone was probably there. Uh, no, but nice try. Still, I don’t think anyone in this place other than us understands the meaning of the word “carpool.”

The rather extensive draft beer list was already waiting on the table when we sat down, which is always a good sign. Especially for a place that has that particular entity in its title.

The large variety of beers of course meant that Shane went with a Miller Lite. I got the Breckenridge Agave Wheat. Ted realized Breckenridge made a Christmas Ale and went with that choice. I sampled his and was a little disappointed I didn’t order that one. There’s always round two.

So being that the other half of the name of the place is burgers, you can probably guess that that involved another extensive list. Such marketing wizards with the name of the place. But this was a bit of overkill – like three pages of the menu devoted just to burgers. And some interesting concoctions – one involved truffle butter and brie cheese, one with peanut butter, one with tater tots and sloppy joe  … and one was even served on a glazed donut.

 

No calories here. Nope. None at all. Maybe they should rename this place “Heart Attacks 2 Cholesterol Levels.”

Ted started with the candied pork appetizer. It was like meat, not on a stick. Although it wasn’t quite as good as the meat on a stick he got at that place in Richfield we can never remember the actual name of that Shane would rather set himself on fire than walk into again, it was still tasty. As soon as it arrived at the table, Shane’s nose immediately singled out the garlic in it. Ted said it was spicy. Like OK for him, but probably not for everyone.

Meat, no stick

Meat, no stick

I mean, this is the guy who recently called acid wings “not hot at all,” so just keep that in mind.

For his meal, Ted got the pizza burger. Seems odd for a guy who hates cheese, but I guess this is really the safest version of pizza he could ever find, no? Well, other than the cheese-less pizza he got a few weeks ago, but that’s a bit of an anomaly.

Burger, take one

Burger, take one

He said the burger was good, but a little bland. Especially with everything that was going on there (pepperoni, peppers, marinara, onions and mushrooms – plus cheese, for normal people), it just didn’t seem to have much flavor. He still stands by his all time favorite being The Rail.

Shane: “That place that tried to kill me.”

Every. Time.

Shane got the monthly special burger for December – which I can’t remember exactly what came on that, but I do know it involved peppers and some other spicy stuff, since I was debating on getting the same one. His burger, like Ted’s, was also just OK. Said the patty itself didn’t have much flavor, but everything else on the burger was good.

Burger, take two

Burger, take two

He also got salt and vinegar wings. Is this like week #27 with wings? I’ve seriously lost count.

But he said the wings didn’t taste like salt & vinegar. Ted tried one and said they tasted like BBQ potato chips. Close? Not really. Maybe the cook just got his flavor bags from his snack packs mixed up.

They all start to look alike after a while

They all start to look alike after a while

I got the hot & bothered burger – habenero cheddar cheese, onions, siracha mayo and jalepenos. Sounds super bland, no? Yeah, it was definitely spicy. I also used the house BBQ sauce that they keep on the table as my condiment of choice to dip my tater tots in, and that had some kick to it too.

Burger, take three - plus tots

Burger, take three – plus tots

And I wonder why my taste buds sometimes revolt against me.

Amanda got the club burger (ham, turkey, bacon and gouda), which she  almost had to eat bunless, as the top of the sandwich flew off when the server brought her meal to the table. She did bring Amanda another top bun – but at least the bunless burger made for a nice photo op.

Burger, waiting for the top bun

Burger, waiting for the top bun

Amanda also agreed that the burger patty itself needed more flavor. The toppings were good, but if you just ate a piece of the burger patty it was unimpressive.

So basically the moral is that if you go, be sure get the burger with the most toppings – or at least the most flavorful ones anyway – so they can mask the taste of the actual burger patty itself. Because that seems right, considering the name of the place and all.

New name idea: “Toppings 2 Mask The Blandness.”

Service was pretty good, considering how busy it was there. The trivia was alternately interesting and annoying at the same time. It was loud, so at times we were having to shout over the host to hear one another. We also had to restrain ourselves from shouting out answers that we knew, which took a lot on our parts at times. Because, you know, restraint is definitely nowhere in our vocabularies. Have you seen the tables of food we order sometimes? Seriously.

Picked by: Amanda
Next pick: Ted

Steph

Steph

Ted

Ted

Shane

Shane

Amanda

Amanda

B2b Burgers 2 Beer Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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WTGW 3/11/15: The Annex / Station 43 Tavern, Solon

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Today we bring you the tale of two WTGW locations, all for the price of one. And also a good lesson in back-up plans.

First let’s rewind a few days, when Shane – reluctantly and under extreme interrogation from me and Amanda – finally gave up the name of the place he was choosing for this week’s pick. Before we had a chance to Google it on our own, he was showing us pictures of what looked like an actual house, and claimed that there was a real bar inside. Where real paying customers went to eat and drink. Yeah, um, that sounds a little shady. And probably not the best way to sell the place to us, BTW.

So over the course of the next few days I did a little bit of research into this mythical “house of alcohol,” and, after reading some admittedly surprisingly favorable reviews, decided that maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t going to be so bad after all. I think my exact text to Shane was something along the lines of “I think we only have about a 40% chance of getting shot there, so let’s give it a try.” Life on the edge, folks. 

Fast forward to the drive there, where you could visibly see Shane’s anxiety level rising as we got closer and the jokes about any one of the shacks we passed potentially being our actual destination escaladed. And then this conversation happened:

Amanda: “Well the place does have a website, so it has to be kind of OK, right?”

Me: “Yeah, but did you see the part of the website that said it was actually created by some random super fan of the place, and not anyone actually affiliated with it?”

I think Shane almost turned the car around right there.

But we soldiered on, and eventually found The Annex in Solon. And they aren’t lying, it truly is a house. And not a very big one at that. But there were cars in the parking lot, and we could hear music coming from inside through the open window, so I think at that point we all figured it couldn’t be nearly as bad as we were making it out to be.

Let’s just say this much: The Annex is billed as “Solon’s best kept secret.” And I guess it will stay a secret to our group, because –  for the first time in WTGW history – we ditched out before we could even order anything. But not for lack of trying, though.

The place was packed, so we grabbed the first (and I think only) empty table available, right by the door. We waited for a few minutes, then finally realized that, for all the people in the place, only two of them were actually working there. There was one bartender behind the bar, and then one cook – who we could clearly see grilling up burgers in the back corner of the house. Call me crazy, but it seemed a bit unsafe (and potentially slightly unsanitary) to have someone cooking with fire and grease right out there in the open inches from the bar, no? I mean, I like open concept and all, but that was a bit much.

So the boys went up to the bar to get drinks, and that’s when we realized the real “best kept secret” about The Annex: you only get served if you’re a regular. Not once but twice they were very obviously overlooked in favor of someone who walked up after them and who the bartender clearly knew the order for.

Well then.

So we left. Because there’s no need to give money to a place who clearly cares not if you’re there. And also the whole chance that we might contract salmonella from the insane kitchen setup – but that was really reason #2 in our book. Because, well let’s face it, if we haven’t died yet from some of the places we’ve eaten in, chances are this wouldn’t have killed us either.

Although I can say the place definitely followed us, as it only took about two seconds in the car for us to realize that we all smelled like one giant collective grease trap. Awesome.

Fortunately Shane had a back up plan for the evening, which should probably tell you something about the place right from the get-go, but whatevs. We headed a few miles down the road, and arrived at Station 43. A place which not only acknowledged us when we walked in the front door, but seated us promptly, and served us drinks. And also didn’t reek of animal fat. What?

Of course we started out with drinks – in what seems to have become our new regular order, it was a Fat Tire for me and Ted, Miller Lite for Amanda, and rum and diet for Shane. Which was considerably darker than last week. And not $2.25.

Now that's a much better rum-to-coke ratio

Now that’s a much better rum-to-coke ratio

It's more difficult to do the color test when bottles are involved

It’s more difficult to do the color test when bottles are involved

For appetizers we went with calamari – because, well, Shane – and steak bites – because, well, Ted. Both of the apps were outstanding. The presentation was nice on the calamari, and the sauce was really tasty. The steak bites, while not exactly the “meat flavored cotton candy” we’d experienced at Teschner’s a while back, were still tender and delicious.

If there's calamari on the menu, chances are Shane will order it

If there’s calamari on the menu, chances are Shane will order it

Not-quite-meat-flavored-cotton-candy

Not-quite-meat-flavored-cotton-candy

Our waitress (Allie?) was great. She clearly loves the place and taking care of her customers. She was chatty and funny and just overall personable, which – call me crazy – seems to be a good quality for anyone in the service industry. And the exact opposite of what we’d just encountered at The Annex, so there’s that.

We all had kind of decided what we wanted for our dinners, but when Allie (I’ve pretty much decided that’s her name, my apologies if it’s really Susan or something not even close) came to take our order we of course asked what she recommended – and she was such a good salesperson that I think 3/4 of the table changed their minds.

Case in point, Ted was the first of us to set down his menu and declare his order (perch platter) but after hearing Allie’s recommendations he did a 180 and went with the Rueben sandwich instead.  As did Amanda, who had been wavering between that and a burger, and made her decision after Allie’s proclamation that she could eat it like every other day.

And I’m happy to report that neither of them were disappointed by their sandwiches. The corned beer was thinly sliced, and not salty at all. Ted said it was second only to Slyman’s – which anyone from the Cleveland area will know is quite the compliment.

Second to Slyman's, Impressive

Second to Slyman’s, Impressive

Shane had had his heart set on a burger, especially after staring hungrily at the plate of the woman seated at the table next to us, and noticing that the burger she had was done pretty much the exact way he liked them cooked. I mean, we didn’t bring out the photo from the Happy Moose a few weeks ago for reference or anything crazy like that, but it seemed pretty spot on. However, by the time Allie was done with us Shane had switched up to a full rack of ribs and a 6-pack of garlic parmesan wings … which had started out as only garlic, Allie suggested adding the parm … and as you can guess it was a done deal.

 

I swear, I think she could’ve sold us oceanfront property in Oklahoma at that point. Maybe she’s related to the guy from Moe’s?

Regardless, Shane was not disappointed either. Full, yes – but disappointed, not at all.

Half of Shane's meal

Half of Shane’s meal

And the other half

And the other half

I had the Solon Grande burger, which I also decided on via the plate of the stranger sitting at the table next to us, so thanks for that. Mine was cooked medium, and it was still pink inside – which means Shane really probably would’ve been just as happy with his order if he’d gone that route. It was delicious. And the fries. Fresh cut, thick fries. Yum.

Can't beat good fries

Can’t beat good fries

Burger, medium

Burger, medium

Seriously, how we all don’t weigh about 400 pounds is beyond my realm of comprehension some days.

Even though we were all nearly bursting and complaining about how full we were, our used-car-salesman-turned-waitress almost sold us on desserts, just because they sounded insanely good. Pumpkin roll? Carrot cake? Apple pie? Good lord. I think we finally had to shoo poor Allie away from the table before she sweet talked us into anything else.

Ted: Those desserts sounded really good. I want one but I literally just can’t eat it. Why am I so full?

Amanda: Well you did just basically eat a sandwich and a steak.

So there’s that.

All in all, I think we ended up at the much better place. Station 43 has great decor – it’s all done in a fire station theme, and we loved the canister lights made out of re-purposed air canisters, as well as the various photos and other fun wall decorations.

I don't think they sell those at Lowe's

I don’t think they sell those at Lowe’s

We were fortunate enough to score a fun and personable waitress, and the food was terrific. I mean, it even scored the ever-rare double-thumbs-up from Shane, so you know that speaks volumes all in itself. Hopefully they didn’t judge us from the grease smell we still carried with us from our first choice of the evening. Or maybe they get people in our situation a lot and are used to it by now. Hmm.

Ted

Ted

Shane

Shane

Steph

Steph

Amanda

Amanda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPSULE (… for Station 43. Because I think you pretty much already get the jist of our feelings towards The Annex)

Picked by:  Shane
Drinks: Mostly craft beers on tap, and the usual suspects in bottles. While the sticker shock was a bit much after last week’s pick, that says more to the fact that last week’s place was just dirt cheap.  
Food:
It’s a good sign when we’re stuffed but yet we can’t stop eating because it’s so good. And we’re tempted to order more just because we know it will continue to be delicious.
Service: Let’s be honest, after our first attempt of the evening it really wasn’t going to take much to impress us. But even without that in the equation we still would’ve been impressed here.
Overall: Another on the list of “why are you a half hour away?” Seriously, is there some way we can just get all of the places we really like to move to within a 5-7 mile radius of us?

Next Pick: Steph

Station 43 on Urbanspoon

Annex Bar and Grille on Urbanspoon